University of Sussex Students' Union
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The University of Sussex Students’ Union exists to represent students’ interests within the University and the wider community. 

The Students’ Union is known for its campaigning and activism. We have a strong tradition of standing up for student rights and have actively campaigned over the years on many relevant local, national and international issues that have concerned our members. 

We also do a lot of work behind the scenes to bring about changes and improvements to the policies, practices and services that affect you. This more quiet work, where we plug away and try to tackle the root cause of problems, is referred to as social policy work and it is this work, as well as our campaigning, that means we are able to help improve things not only for students who approach us with problems, but also for others experiencing similar situations. Tackling the root cause of a problem also means we can hopefully prevent students from experiencing the same problems in the future. 


Time To Change mental health campaign

Sophie van der Ham, Welfare OfficerSophie van der Ham, Welfare Officer, is leading this campaign.

You can contact her directly to get involved or contribute your ideas.


Phone: 01273 87 3354

Office: Advice & Representation Centre, Falmer House

>> Find out more about Sophie & her role

What is the issue?

The Students’ Union recognises that mental health remains a taboo topic and yet affects a large number of students. 

Mental health stigma and discrimination continue to be an issue for many students with mental health issues and the Students’ Union has decided to take action to challenge misconceptions, encourage more open discussion and help to encourage a more understanding and supportive campus community.

We also intend for this to be a springboard to encourage the University to improve information and support services available to students with mental health issues.  

What has been done about it?

Last year we launched an online survey to find out about students' views and experiences of mental health.  The survey proved to be very popular and received well over 200 responses.  We wrote the Student Mental Health and Well-being Report based on the findings, which contains some key recommendations aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and improving mental health support for students at Sussex.

On 6th March 2013 almost 50 students took part in a high-profile flash mob in Library Square to launch the Students’ Union’s mental health campaign.

The flash mob was just the beginning of a whole programme of events that aimed to raise awareness and overcome the stigma and discrimination faced by those with mental health issues.


The key event was the first ever Sussex Mental Health Awareness day on Thursday 11th April 2013 which saw both the Students’ Union and the University of Sussex join hundreds of other leading national organisations in signing the Time to Change pledge to end mental health discrimination.  The event also saw a presentation on the findings of our student survey, some personal testimonials and a presentation by a representative from the national Time to Change campaign.  Earlier in the day we also held a film screening and panel discussion around the portrayal of mental health by the media and film.

In the lead up to this event students from UniTV produced a short documentary about the experiences of Sussex students on mental health and the reasons behind this campaign.  This film was screened for the first time as part of Sussex Mental Health Awareness Day.   

What has changed as a result?

Both the Students' Union and the University have now signed the Time to Change pledge, demonstrating a commitment to challenging mental health stigma and discrimination, but this is just the beginning......

We have a dedicated campaign team of student volunteers, officers and staff who have since delivered a whole range of activities and events aimed at raising awareness and encouraging open discussion about mental health issues.    

This year the campaign volunteers and have continued to put on lots of activities and events, starting during Freshers Week but continuing to include events such as those run to mark World Mental Health Day, all designed to raise awareness and encourage open discussion about mental health & overcome stigma, so look out for these over the next few months.

One of our volunteers, with the help of UniTV, has produced a new film that aims to raise awareness  of the prevalence of mental health issues in the University community at large, and how mental health is something which affects everyone.  

This film was released during the Tea, Cake & a Chat event as part of Sussex Mental Health Awareness Day held on  26th March 2014.

Other events held on  Sussex Mental Health Awareness Day included Mindfulness Sessions, the Well-being Tree & an online photography competition.

On May 12 we held our Open Minds Event in conjunction with Albion in the Community to coincide with dissertation deadline day. The event included a Wellbeing Fair, offering advice on mental and physical wellbeing, a Human Library, an exhibtion of work from local artists and an Anti-Stigma Cinema, showing specially commisioned films from Albion in The Community and the new anti-stigma film from UniTV. 








In addition, we have been focussing on ensuring that all of the recommendations made in our Student Mental Health and Well-being Report are implemented in order to reduce stigma and discrimination and improve mental health support for students at Sussex.  To that end, we have worked with the University to agree a joint action plan on how we can work together to improve the information, services and support available to students at Sussex around mental health and well-being.

There are now regular meetings between all support services on campus in order to improve communication between all the services offering support to students and encourage a more joined-up approach to the support offered. 

We have also created a Mental Health and Well-being Policy for the Students’ Union and taken steps to implement this including: setting up a working group, providing training to staff, holding regular well-being days and creating the necessary HR policies and procedures to better support mental well-being among our staff and elected officers. We also delivered a workshop about our campaign at a Mind/NUS conference that sought to highlight good practice

Finally, in addition to all the activities and events already planned for this year, this year's campaign volunteers have started working on producing a booklet that will be given out to all new students next year in their Freshers Packs.  This booklet will provide key information to new students about where to seek support if it is needed as well as helping to challenge some common myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health. 

This campaign is ongoing.

Get involved!

We're looking for more students who would like to be involved in this campaign.  Have a look here to find out more about how you can get involved or email our Welfare Officer (Sophie) at

You can also sign up to the campaign mailing list to receive regular updates and information, including details about future events and activities we'll be running as part of this campaign.

Campaign aim

To improve the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of staff and students at Sussex around mental health in order to reduce stigma and help overcome some of the difficulties faced by Sussex students with mental health problems.

Campaign objectives

  1. The Students' Union to sign the Time to Change Pledge during 2012-13
  2. The University of Sussex to sign the Time to Change Pledge during 2012-13
  3. The Students’ Union and University of Sussex to work together to publicise the Time to Change campaign 
  4. The Students’ Union and University of Sussex to work together to identify ways to further reduce stigma towards mental health 
  5. All key staff at the Students’ Union and the University to have received mental health awareness training by September 2015 and mental health awareness training to be incorporated into the training for all new staff thereafter
  6. The University to undertake a comprehensive review of the systems of support in place for students with mental health problems and implement any resulting recommendations

Where to go for information and support

If you are worried about your own or someone else's mental health, have a look at the University's health and well-being webpages and on the Students' Union's advice webpages for some useful information about what you can do and where to go for further support.